Kanji 医短至屋握室窒到倒致緻-“arrow” (2)


In the last post we looked at a few kanji that originated from 矢 “arrow.”  We start this post by adding two more kanji that contains 矢 – 医短. Then we look at kanji that contains 至, with a reduced shape of an arrow at the top – 至屋握室窒到倒致緻.

  1. The kanji 医 “medical”

history-of-kanji-%e5%8c%bbFor the kanji 医, the two seal style writings, (b) and (c), were originally not related. (b) had its oracle bone style precursor (a), which had an arrow in a box that signified “to hide an arrow.” The other seal style writing (c) had (b) 医 “a box of arrows” at the top left. With the right side殳 “a hand holding a weapon or tool” that meant “to cause,” together it meant an injury caused by an arrow in battle. The bottom酉 was a spirit jar that signified medicinal spirit. Altogether “treating an injured person with medical spirit” meant “medicine.” The kyujitai (d) reflected (c). The shinjitai became only an arrow hidden in a box. The kanji 医 meant “medicine.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi 医 meant “medicine; medical,” and is in 医者 (“medical doctor” /isha/), 医学 (“medical science” /i’gaku/), 内科医 (“doctor of internal medicine; physician” /naika’i/) and 医療費 (“fee for medical treatment; doctor’s bill” /iryo’ohi).

  1. The kanji 短 “short”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9f%adFor the kanji 短, the left side was an arrow and the right side 豆 was a small one-legged tray or bowl. Setsumon explained that an arrow was used in measuring length. From that the kanji 短 meant “short.”

The kun-yomi 短い /mijika’i/ meant “short,” and is in 気短な (“short-tempered; impatient” /kimijika-na/) and in the expression 手短に言えば (“to put it succinctly; to cut a long story short” /temijika-ni-ie’ba/).  The on-yomi /tan/ is in 長短 (“merits and demerits; strength and weakness” /cho’otan/), 短所 (“weakness” /ta’nsho/), 単刀直入に (”frankly; come straight to the point” /tantoo-chokunyuu-ni/) and 短歌 (“tanka poetry; 31-syllabled poem” /ta’nka/).

Now we move to another group of “arrow” kanji — 至屋握室窒到倒致緻.

  1. The kanji 至 “to reach an end”

history-of-kanji-%e8%87%b3For the kanji 至, the bronze ware style writing was an arrow with its arrowhead at the bottom, hitting the ground (一). It meant “to reach an end.” In seal style the arrowhead became long, which in kanji became a part of 土 “soil; ground.” The kanji 至 meant “to reach an end; to the end.”

The kun-yomi 至る /itaru/ means “to reach; arrive,” and is in the expression 至れり尽せりの (“complete; leaving nothing to be desired” /itareri-tsukuse’ri-no/) and 至る所に (“everywhere” /ita’rutokoro-ni/). The on-yomi /shi/ is 至急 (“urgently; without delay” /shikyuu/), 必至だ (“inevitable” /hisshi-da/), 至上命令 (“supreme directive” /shijoome’eree/) and 夏至 and冬至 (“summer solstice” around June 22 and “winter solstice” around December 22. /geshi/ and /tooji/).

  1. The kanji 屋 “house; roof”

history-of-kanji-%e5%b1%8bFor the kanji 屋, in (a) in Old style, (b) Chubun style, and (c) seal style 至 was placed inside a house, (a), or under尸 , (b) and (c). There are different views on its origin: (1) Shirkawa took the view that in ancient times an arrow was shot to determine an appropriate location and where an arrow dropped was considered to be the place. That is 至.  尸 was a hut to house a corpse to intern to weather it before burial. Together 屋 meant a house. (2) Kanjigen explained that a covering drapery 至 “dead end” together blocked passing. 屋 meant a covered house; (3) The Kadokawa dictionary explained 尸 “drapery” and 至 “to reach” together meant a secluded room in the back. The fact that a bushu shikabane 尸has two distinctly different meanings –“corpse,” as the name indicates, and “roof” — is reflected in these different views. The kanji 屋 meant “roof; house.”  In Japanese it was also used to mean business that was conducted under a roof, a “store.”

The kun-yomi /ya/ is in 本屋 (“bookstore” /ho’nya/), 屋号 (“name of a store” /ya’goo/), 屋根 (“roof” /ya’ne/) and 小屋 (“hut” /koya/). The on-yomi /oku/ is in 屋外 (“outdoors; open-air” /oku’gaai/) and 屋上 (“rooftop” /okujoo/).

  1. The kanji 握 “to grip; grasp”

history-of-kanji-%e6%8f%a1The seal style writing of the kanji 握 had 扌, a bushu tehen “an act one does using a hand” and 屋 phonetically for /oku; aku/. Together a hand reaching out to seize meant “to grip; grasp.”

The kun-yomi /nigiru/ meant “to grip; grasp,” and is in the expression 手に汗を握る (“to be in breathless suspense; gripping; heated” /te’ni a’seonigiru/) . The on-yomi /aku/ is in 握手 (“shaking hands” /a’kushu/), 握力 (“grip strength” /aku’ryoku/) and 把握する(“perceive; grasp” /haaku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 室 “room”

history-of-kanji-%e5%ae%a4For the kanji 室 all three ancient style — oracle bone, bronze ware and seal — had a house (宀) and an arrow reaching the ground (至), signifying “the farthest point” in a house. Together they meant a secluded room in the back. The kanji 室 meant “room.”

The kun-yomi /muro/ is in 氷室 (“icehouse” /hi’muro/). The on-yomi /shitsu/ is in 教室 (“classroom” /kyooshitu/), 室内 (“inside a room” /shitsu’nai/), 寝室 (“bedroom” /shinshitsu/), 皇室 (“royal family” /kooshitsu/) and 側室 (“concubine” /sokushitsu/).

  1. The kanji 窒 “to suffocate; smother”

history-of-kanji-%e7%aa%92The seal style writing for the kanji 窒 had 穴 “house; cave” at the top and 至 “an arrow reaching the ground” used phonetically fpr /shi; tetsu/.  Together an arrow reaching a cave meant “to block passing or traffic.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chitsu/ is in 窒素 (“nitrogen” /chi’sso/) and 窒息する (“to smother; suffocate” /chissoku-suru/).

  1. The kanji 到 “to arrive; come”


The two bronze ware style writings shown on the left had an arrow reaching the ground and a person standing on the right. Together they meant a person reaching the spot where an arrow dropped, or “to arrive.” In seal style on the right side a person changed to a sword, which became 刂, a bushu rittoo in kanji. The mix-up of 人 and 刀 in kanji history was not uncommon, as we saw in the kanji召 in an earlier post. The kanji 到 meant “to arrive; come.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /too/ is in 到着する (“to arrive” /toochaku-suru/), 到底〜ない (“cannot possibly” /tootee ~nai/), 到達する (“to attain” /tootasu-suru/) and 殺到する (“to rush to” /sattoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 倒 “to fall down; topple; collapse”

history-of-kanji-%e5%80%92The seal style writing for the kanji 倒 had イ “person” and 到 “to reach,” from a person arriving at where an arrow reached, used phonetically for /too/. Together a person retrieving an arrow and coming back originally signified a person in a reverse manner or upside-down position. The kanji 倒 meant “to invert; fall; topple.”

The kun-yomi 倒れる /taore’ru/ means “to fall; topple,” and 倒す means “to topple; bring down.” The on-yomi /too/ is in 倒壊する (“to collapse; topple” /tookai-suru/), 倒産 (“bankruptcy” /toosan/), 打倒 する (“to overthrow” /datoo-suru/) and卒倒する (“to faint; faint unconsciously” /sottoo-suru/).

  1. The kanji 致 “to do; cause”

history-of-kanji-%e8%87%b4The seal style writing for the kanji 致 had 至on the left. The right side was a hand or glove for shooting arrows holding a long bow. Together they meant “to make someone do something.” In kanji the right side became 攵,a bushu bokuzukuri “to cause.“

The kun-yomi 致す /ita’su/ means “to do” in humble style. The on-yomi /chi/ is in 致命的な (“fatal” /shimeeteki-na/), 一致する (“to agree; conform” /icchi-suru/), 合致する (“to coincide; correspond” /gacchi-suru/ and 誘致する (“to lure; entice” /yu’uchi-suru/).

  1. The kanji 緻 “minute; fine”

history-of-kanji-%e7%b7%bbThe seal style writing of the kanji 緻 had 糸 “stein of threads” that signified “close-grained; fine” next to 致 “to do” used phonetically for /chi/. Together they meant “fine.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /chi/ is in 緻密な (“minute; intricate” /chimitsu-na/) and 精緻な (“detailed; thorough; precise” /seemitsu-na/).

We have collected 16 kanji that originated from an arrow in this and last posts.  I must admit that I was surprised how extensively an image or meaning of an arrow was used in kanji, just as I was astonished at the extensive use of a halberd in Japanese kanji in our December and January posts. I was reminded of the role that that weapons played in ancient time in China and how it inspired the creators of ancient writing to go beyond the use of arrow as weapon. Thank you for your reading.     -Noriko [February 26, 2017]

The Kanji 黄横広拡鉱矢知侯候喉- 黄 “fire arrow” and 矢 “arrow”


In this post we are going to look at the kanji that originated from “fire arrow” (黄) – 黄横広拡鉱 −, and “arrow” (矢) – 矢知侯候喉.

  1. The kanji 黄 “yellow; golden”

history-of-kanji-%e9%bb%84%e8%89%b2For the kanji 黄 in oracle bone style, in brown, bronze ware style, in green, and seal style, in red, it was a fire arrow with an arrowhead at the top, combustible materials in the middle and feathers at the bottom. When a fire arrow was shot, it illuminated an area. The yellow color of this light became the meaning of this kanji. The kanji 黄 meant “yellow; golden.”

The kun-yomi 黄 /ki/ means “yellow,” and is in 黄色 (“yellow” /kiiro/), 黄緑色 (“light green” /kimidoriiro/) and 卵の黄身 (“egg yolk” /tama’go-no kimi/). The on-yomi /oo/ is in 黄金の (“golden” /oogon-no/) and 卵黄 (“egg yolk” /ran-oo/). Another on-yomi /koo/ is in 黄葉 (“yellowing of autumn leaves” /kooyoo/) and 黄河 (“the Yellow River (in China)” /ko’oga/). (The word 黄金色 is also read as /koganeiro/.  /ko/ is listed as a kun-yomi on the Joyo kanji list.)

  1. The kanji 横 “side; sideways; wicked; wrong”

history-of-kanji-%e6%a8%aaFor the kanji 横, the bronze ware style writing was the same as 黄. In seal style 木 “wood” was added on the left, and the right side was used phonetically for /oo/, and meant “sideways,” from a fire arrow illuminating both sides as it traveled. Together they signified a piece of wood placed sideways as a latch on a gate. From that it meant “side; sideways.” Something that goes sideways could be going outside the legitimate areas, thus, it also meant “wicked; wrong.”

The kun-yomi 横 /yoko/ means “side; sideways,” and is in 真横 (“right next to; side” /mayoko/), 縦と横 (“length and width” /ta’te-to yoko/), 横這い (“leveling off” /yokobai/), 横槍を入れる (“to butt in; interrupt” /yokoyari-o-ireru/), 横流しする (“to sell illegally” /yokonagashi-suru/). The on-yomi /oo/ is in 横断歩道 (“pedestrian crossing” /oodanho’doo/), 縦横に (“in every direction; crisscrossing” /juuo’o ni/), 横暴な (“oppressive; tyrannical” /ooboo-na/) and 横領 (“embezzlement; misappropriation” /ooryoo/).

  1. The kanji 広 “wide; spacious”

history-of-kanji-%e5%ba%83For the kanji 広, in (a) in oracle bone style the top was a house, and the inside was a fire arrow that signified “wide.” (b) and (c) in bronze ware style had a house with one side open, which (d) in seal style became 广, a bushu gandare “house with one side open.” In shinjitai (f)  the inside of the kyujitai (e) 廣 was replaced by a katakana ム, which is one of the simplifying shapes.  The kanji 広 meant “wide; spacious.”

The kun-yomi /hiro’i/ means “wide; spacious,” and is in 広場 (“open area” /hi’roba/).  /-Biro/ is in 手広くやる (“do business extensively” /tebiroku yaru/).  The on-yomi /koo/ is in 広告 (“advertisement” /kookoku/) and 広報 (“public information; public relations PR” /ko’ohoo; koohoo/).

  1. The kanji 拡 “to widen”

history-of-kanji-%e6%8b%a1For The kanji 拡, the seal style had扌, a bushu tehen “act that one does by hand.” Together with the kanji 廣 “wide” they meant “to widen.” The kyujitai 擴 was simplified to 拡. By an agent of action ,“hand,” the kanji 拡 is used as a verb, whereas 広 was an adjective.  Until the 2010 revision of Joyo kanji (that is, 1981 version), the kun-yomi /hiro/ was not in Joyo kanji, and 広 was often used. So we see both 広げる and 拡げる in print.

The kun-yomi 拡げる /hirogeru/ means “to widen,” as a transitive verb.  The on-yomi /kaku/ is in 拡張する (“to expand” /kakuchoo-suru/) and 拡大 (“enlargement” /kakudai/).

  1. The kanji 鉱 “ore; mineral”

history-of-kanji-%e9%89%b1For the kanji 鉱 Old style was shown in gray. The seal style writing had 石 “rock” on the left, and the right side 黄 was used phonetically for /koo/. Together they meant “ore; mineral; rock.” In kyujitai 鑛, the left side became 金, a bushu kanehen “metal; mineral,” and the right side became 廣 with a madare, which was further replaced by 広 in shinjitai. The kanji 鉱 means “ore; mineral.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 鉱山 (“mine” /ko’ozan/), 鉱物 (“minerals” /ko’obutsu/) and 炭鉱 (“coal mine” /tankoo/).

The next 15 or so kanji that we are going to look at in this and next posts deal with an arrow, 矢, and its variants.

  1. The kanji 矢 “arrow”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9f%a2For the kanji 矢, in oracle bone style and bronze ware style it was an arrow with an arrowhead at the top and feathers at the bottom. The seal style writing became much less an image of an arrow. In kanji a short slanted stroke emphasized the arrowhead. The kanji 矢 meant “arrow.”

The kun-yomi 矢 /ya’/ means “arrow,” and is in 弓矢 (“bow and arrow” /yumi’ya/). The expression 白羽の矢が当たる means (“the choice falls on (someone)” /shiraha-no-ya’-ga-ataru). The on-yomi /shi/ is in the expression 一矢報いる (“to shoot back; give a small blow back; retaliate” /i’sshi mukuiru/) and 嚆矢 (“beginning” /ko’oshi/).

A personal note on the word 嚆矢 — Having lived away from Japan so many years and spending my reading time mostly on linguistics and others written in English I had less chance to encounter complex or less frequently used words in Japanese. One day while I was keeping company with my then-90-year-old mother in her room in Japan and working on my materials, I was looking for on-reading words for 矢 /shi/. I found 嚆矢 /ko’oshi/, a word that I had never used myself, and had to look up how to read it. Then, I felt a funny urge to say to my mother, “Mother, do you know what /ko’oshi/ with the kanji /ya/ means?” For a moment she looked puzzled, probably thinking that I was testing her mental ability in her advanced age. My unassuming soft-spoken mother answered, “Do you mean the word for beginning?” After a pause she picked up a pen and started scribbling down the word in kanji on a piece of paper. I had to smile at her with pride and amazement.

I was a product of post-war education in which kanji were simplified, prose made plain and complex words pushed away. It was only in high school that we studied classical Japanese. On the other hand someone who was schooled for fewer years in the Taisho and early Showa eras received an education that equipped her to read much better. Undoubtedly my not living in Japan had something to do with it, but nonetheless it was a humbling experience. At the same time it made me think about the quality of the language education that I received after the post-war national language reform.

(Incidentally the kanji 嚆 means “(whistling) sound of an arrow being shot” and is non-Joyo kanji.)

  1. The kanji 知 “to know”

history-of-kanji-%e7%9f%a5For the kanji 短, the seal style writing had 矢 “arrow,” which also meant “to vow.” The right side, 口 “mouth,” signified “word; language.” Together they signified “to vow to a god.”  Knowledge was what the god gave. From that the kanji 知 meant “to know.”

The kun-yomi 知 /shiru/ means “to know.” The on-yomi /chi/ is in 知人 (“acquaintance” /chijin/), 知事 (“prefectural governor” /chi’ji/), 承知する (“to consent to; accept; know” /shoochi-suru/), 熟知する (“to know well; have thorough knowledge of” /ju’kuchi-suru/), 知能 (“intelligence; mental faculties” /chi’noo/), 知覚 (“perception; sensory” /chikaku/), 周知の (“common knowledge” /shu’uchi-no/) and 機知に富んだ (“witty; resourceful” /ki’chi-ni-tonda/).

The next two kanji 侯 and 候 share the same origin and their developments were intertwined.

  1. The kanji 侯 “(feudal) lord; marquis”

history-of-kanji-%e4%be%afFor the kanji 侯, (a) in oracle bone style and (b) and (c) in bronze ware style had an arrow under a canopy or target range, signifying “to shoot an arrow.” In (d) in seal style, a person bending his back foward to watch out was added at the top. Together they meant the title of a person who oversaw shooting arrows against an enemy – “feudal lord; lord.” Later on it became one of the five levels of titles in the order of 公侯伯子男 based on Confucious. The kanji 侯 meant “lord; marquis.”

There is no kun-yomi. The on-yomi /koo/ is in 諸侯 (“feudal lords” /sho’koo/) and 侯爵 (“marquisa” /ko’oshaku/).

  1. The kanji 候 “scout; climate; be”

history-of-kanji-%e5%80%99For the kanji 候 the bronze ware style writing had an arrow and a house or canopy, the same components as 侯. In seal style, in addition to a person crouching watching out at the top (侯), another person (イ) was added on the left side. This was to differentiate the two meanings that 侯 originally had – “lord” from shooting arrows, and “to watch for a sign of an enemy; scout,” the latter of which became the meaning of the kanji 候 “to peep; watch for a sign.” Weather or climate was something one judged or forecast from atmospheric signs, so it was used to discuss season or weather. In classical Japanese, 候 /sooro’o/ meant “to be” for /~de aru/ in old epistolary style.  The kanji 候 meant “to scout; climate; be.”

The kun-yomi 候 /sooro’o/ is a classic verb “to be.” The on-yomi /koo/ is in 気候 (“climate” /kikoo/), 天候 (“weather” /tenkoo/), 斥候 (“scout” /sekkoo/), 候文 (“old epistolary style writing in classical Japanese” /sooro’obun/) and 居候 (“a person living in someone’s else’s house without paying; free loader” /isooroo/).

  1. The kanji 喉 “throat”

history-of-kanji-%e5%96%89For the kanji 喉, the seal style writing had 口 “mouth” next to the shape (d) in 侯, which was used phonetically for /koo/. Together they meant “throat.”

The kun-yomi 喉 /no’do/ means “throat.” The on-yomi /koo/ is 耳鼻咽喉科 (“ear nose and throat specialist; otolaryngology” /ji’bi inkooka.) and 喉頭炎 (“laryngitis” /kooto’oen/).

In the next post we continue to add more kanji with 矢 and introduce its variants. Thank you very much for your reading.  –Noriko [February 19. 2017]

The Kanji 弓引張強弱溺弾弦弥-弓 “bow”


In this post we are going to look at kanji that contain 弓 “bow” –弓引張強弱溺弾弦弥.

  1. The kanji 弓 “bow”

history-of-kanji-%e5%bc%93For the kanji 弓, (a) in oracle bone style, in brown, and (b) in bronze ware style, in green, had a bow with a bowstring. Another bronze ware style writing (c), (d) in seal style, in red, had a bow only, which became the kanji 弓. The kanji 弓 meant “bow.”

The kun-yomi 弓 /yumi’/ means “bow,” and is in 弓なりに (“in a bow shape; in a curved chain shape” /yuminarini/). The on-yomi /kyu’u/ is in 洋弓 (“western-style bow; western-style archery” /yookyuu/).

  1. The kanji 引 “to pull; pull back; subtract; look up”

history-of-kanji-%e5%bc%95For the kanji 引, the seal style kanji had a bow and a vertical line, which is interpreted to signify something being pulled to straighten. Pulling something back also meant “to subtract.” The kanji 引 meant “to pull; pull back; subtract; look up.”

The kun-yomi 引く /hiku/ means “to pull; subtract; pullback.” It is in 取引 (“transaction; bargaining” /tori’hiki/), 引き受ける (“to undertake; take charge of” /hikiuke’ru/), 引き継ぐ (“to take over; succeed” /hikitsugu/), 引っ越し (“house moving; move” /hikkoshi/), 引き算 (“subtraction” /hiki’zan/), 引き金 (“trigger; immediate cause” /hikigane/) and 辞書を引く (“to consult a dictionary” /ji’sho-o hiku/). /-Bi/ is in 割引 (“discount” /waribiki/). The on-yomi /i’n/ is in 引火 (“ignition; catching fire” /inka/), 引責する (“to assume the responsibility” /inseki-suru/) and 引力 (“the earth’s gravitation; attractiveness” /i’nryoku/).

  1. The kanji 張 “to tense up; stretch; strain; paste”

history-of-kanji-%e5%bc%b5For the kanji 張, in bronze ware style the left side was a skein of thread (糸), and the right side was an old man with long hair (長), which was used phonetically for /cho’o/. In seal style the left side was a bow (弓), which signified something stretched. Stretching something makes it longer. The kanji 張 meant “to stretch; to extend.” The kanji 張 was also used to mean “paste; post” when its correct kanji 貼 was a non-Joyo kanji until the 2010 revision. So, you saw the kanji 張 to mean “post; paste.”

The kun-yomi 張る /haru/ means “to tense up; stretch” is in 見張り (“watch; lookout” /mihari/) and 見栄を張る (“to be pretentious; show off” /mie’0 haru/). /-Pa/ is in 突っ張る (“to cramp up; tighten” /tsuppa’ru/), and /-ba/ is in 頑張る (“to keep at it; stick to” /ganba’ru/).  The on-yomi /cho’o/ is in 出張 (“business trip” /shucchoo/), 緊張する (to tense up; be keyed up” /kinchoo-suru/), 主張する (“to insist; assert; claim” /shuchoo-suru/) and 膨張 (“swelling; increase” /boochoo/).

  1. The kanji 強 “strong; advantage; to force”

history-of-kanji-%e5%bc%b7For the kanji 強, Setsumon gave the Chubun style writing, shown in gray, to be its preceding writing – 彊 phonetically used for /kyoo/ at the top and two worms 虫 at the bottom. They meant a hard shell insect such as a beetle. From that it meant “strong.”  Shirakawa viewed that 彊 meant something else and that 強 was a semantic composite which was comprised of 弘, a bow with bow string detached, and 虫, a wild silkworm thread that was fortified with resin. Together they meant “strong.” Being strong is advantageous.  The kanji強 meant “strong; advantage; to force.”

The kun-yomi 強い /tsuyo’i/ means “strong; advantage.” Another kun-yomi 強いる /shii’ru/ means “to force; coerce”, and is in 無理強いする (“to force someone do”  /murijii-suru/) and in the expression 強いて言えば (“if anything; if I must choose” /shi’ite-ieba/). The on-yomi /kyo’o/ is in 強力な (“powerful; forceful” /kyooryokuna/), 強化する (“to strengthen; reinforce” /kyo’ka-suru/), 勉強する (“to study; reduce the price” /benkyoo-suru/), 強制的に (“by compulsion; enforcement” /kyooseeteki-ni/). Another on-yomi /go’o/ is in 強引な (“aggressive; pushy” /gooin-na/).

  1. The kanji 弱 “weak; fragile; mild”

history-of-kanji-%e5%bc%b1For the kanji 弱 in seal style it had two bows with three diagonal lines.  In ancient writing three diagonal lines usually signified something beautiful or a decorative pattern. A decorative bow was for ceremonial purposes and was not strong. The kanji 弱 meant “weak; fragile; mild.”

The kun-yomi 弱い /yowa’i/ means “weak,” and is in ひ弱な (“feeble; delicate” /hiyowa-na/), か弱い (“weak; delicate” /kayowa’i/),  弱々しい (“frail; weakly” /yowayowashi’i/).  The on-yomi /ja’ku/ is in 強弱 (“strength and weakness” /kyo’ojaku/), 弱小国 (“lesser country” /jakusho’okoku/), 弱点 (“weak pint” /jakute’n/), 百人弱 (“a little under a hundred people” /hyakuninja’ku/) and in the phrase 弱肉強食 (“law of the jungle; The stronger prey on the weaker” /jaku’niku kyooshoku/).

  1. The kanji 溺 “to drown”

history-of-kanji-%e6%ba%baFor the kanji 溺, the seal style writing had a bushu sanzui “water” and the phonetically used component 弱 for /jaku; deki/. The kanji 溺 meant “to drown.”

The kun-yomi 溺れる /oboreru/ means “to drown.” The on-yomi /de’ki/ is in 溺愛 (“doting” /dekiai/) and 溺死 (“death from drowning” /dekishi/).

  1. The kanji 弾 “to flick; bullet; spring”

history-of-kanji-%e5%bc%beFor the kanji 弾, in oracle bone style, (a) had a bow with a circle that might have emphasized the action of shooting, or a rock to shoot with. (b) was a bow. For seal style Setsubun gave two writings (c) and (d), both of which had a bow on the left – (c) had 単 used phonetically for /tan/, and (d) had 爪 “fingernails,” which suggested an action of fingers flicking something. The kyujitai (e) took (c), which became simplified to 弾 in shinjitai.  The kanji 弾 meant “to flick; bullet; spring”

The kun-yomi /hiku/ is in ピアノを弾く “to play piano” /piano-o hiku/). The on-yomi /da’n/  is in 弾丸 (“bullet” /dangan/), 弾力性 (“elasticity; flexibility” /danryokusee/), 弾圧 (“oppression; repression” /dan-atsu/) and 弾劾 (“impeachment; censure” /dangai/).

  1. The kanji 弦 “bow string; string musical instrument”

history-of-kanji-%e5%bc%a6For the kanji 弦, the seal style writing was comprised of 弓 and 玄, used phonetically for /gen/. 玄 was twined threads that were dyed black. Together they meant strings on a bow. Plucking a tightened string makes sounds, and 弦 meant “stringed musical instrument.” The kanji 弦 meant “bow string; string musical instrument.”

There is no kun-yomi in Joyo kanji. The on-yomi /ge’n/ is in 弦楽器 (“string musical instrument” /genga’kki/), 管弦楽 (“orchestral music” /kange’ngaku/) and上弦の月 (“early crescent moon” /joogen-no-tsuki/.)

  1. The kanji 弥 “long time; increasingly”

history-of-kanji-%e5%bc%a5For the kanji 弥, Setsumon gave two (a) and (b) as its seal style writings. (a) had 長 “long hair” on the left instead of 弓. The right side was 爾 or 璽 “imperial seal.” Shirakawa explained (a) in bronze ware style as having a beautifully done body painting on a woman’s upper body for a ritual, and a bow probably used in a rite to fend off evil. The kanji 彌 meant “long.” The seal style (c) had 王 “jewel” to signify an imperial seal made of a precious stone. In kyujitai (d) 王 was dropped.  In shinjitai 爾 was replaced by 尓, and became 弥. The Kadokawa dictionary and Kanjigen viewed the right side of 彌 to be a seal. The kanji 弥 meant “long time; increasingly.”

The kun-yomi /ya/ is in 弥生時代 (“the Yayoi period” /yayoiji’dai/) and 弥次馬 (“curious spectator; meddler” /yajiuma/), sometimes written as 野次馬. There is no on-yomi.

Other kanji that appear to contain 弓, such as 弟第弔 are not directly related to this group.  In the next a couple of posts we will look at kanji that contain an arrow, 矢.  Thank you very much for your reading.  [February 12, 2017]